6) The creation of the VIA Platform Solutions Division was a very bold move on the part of VIA as many expressed fears of motherboard manufacturers being done away with by VIA. What few realize is that Intel successfully maintains a very profitable motherboard manufacturing business without scaring motherboard manufacturers away. It has been argued that the major difference between Intel and VIA in this respect is that VIA is contracting out the manufacturing of their motherboards to a third party (Soltek) while Intel does everything in-house. At the same time, Intel's own line of motherboards is significantly more robust and reliable than most competing boards based on the same chipsets. With that said, does VIA plan on getting into the motherboard manufacturing business in order to take the VPSD to the next level (not only contracting out motherboard projects to Soltek but actually producing the boards yourselves)?
I'd like to strongly emphasize that we are working with a number of different manufacturing partners for our motherboards. We have built up a very successful "fabless" business model and are now applying this to our VIA Platform Solutions Division. This of course means that we will not be doing any manufacturing ourselves.
As with chipsets, our focus will be on designing market-leading products that integrate the latest technological innovations and then working with our manufacturing partners to make sure that they build the products according to the highest quality standards. There are numerous world class manufacturing facilities in the Greater China region, so it makes sense to leverage their capabilities.
7) Will VPSD boards be marketed as more reliable solutions than competing boards, potentially sacrificing some or many (which is the case with Intel boards) tweaking/overclocking features for increased stability? How will the pricing on VPSD P4X266 boards compare to the average price for 3rd party P4X266 based solutions? Will VPSD boards use higher quality components and employ less cost sensitive design characteristics in the name of improving stability/reliability or can we expect them to be pretty much on par with what the rest of the P4X266 solutions that we've seen thus far.
Quality will be one of the hallmarks of VPSD motherboards, and we are working very hard from a design and a manufacturing point of view to make sure that our products meet the highest standards in terms of reliability and stability. This of course covers a lot of areas, including choice of motherboard design rules, components, and manufacturing and QA processes.
Performance is of course very important, and we certainly won't be neglecting that. But at the same time, one of our primary objectives with VPSD is to drive the platform forward through the rapid implementation of new technologies such as ATA-133, USB 2.0, etc. There are also some interesting software options that we are also exploring which could potentially add significant value to our platforms, such as our etBrowser. Just think how useful that could be as an on-line diagnostics tool!
8) Is there a future for the VPSD beyond the P4X266? If Intel were to drop the lawsuit today and give the ok to VIA and all motherboard manufacturers to produce P4X266 boards would the VPSD have a reason for existing? Would it have been created if it weren't for Intel's constant pressure on motherboard manufacturers to refrain from selling P4X266 based designs, or was it already in the works regardless as a method of growing VIA's product portfolio?
Our overriding goal with VPSD is to lead the future development of the PC and IA platforms - not simply to sell motherboards. We have been extremely successful in driving innovation at the silicon level with our chipsets; now we can build on this by speeding up the pace of innovation at the platform level. This is what our customers are asking for: they increasingly want a complete solution rather than a processor or a chipset.
Look at the market for so-called Information Appliances, for example. There's been a huge amount of noise about this over the past couple of years, but very little real action. One of the main things that has been holding back the development of the market is the lack of a standardized platform, which makes it expensive to design and build this type of devices. Through VPSD we have the ideal vehicle to promote solutions such as our mini iTX motherboard form factor and move the whole market forward.
So, as you've probably guessed already, VPSD will be a long-term business for us and provides us with an exciting opportunity to extend our industry leadership.
9) If there is a future for the VPSD can we expect to see non-Intel solutions come out of this division as well? Such as a VPSD KT266A or a Hammer board?
There are already a lot of great KT266A motherboards out there on the market, so we don't believe we would add much value if we came out with our own product based on this chipset.
10) The recent news that SiS (recipient of a "official" Pentium 4 bus license) may be producing a RDRAM compliant Pentium 4 chipset has raised the question of whether or not this was a part of the Pentium 4 bus licensing agreement with SiS. Would VIA consider producing a RDRAM based Pentium 4 chipset alongside the P4X266 if it meant that VIA would receive the same pricing structure as SiS for P4 bus licenses on a per chipset basis?
Unfortunately I can't make any comments on the licensing issues. If SIS really are planning to do a Rambus chipset, good luck to them. They will need it.
11) With VIA's experience regarding particularly cool running microprocessors, what are your thoughts on AMD's approach to coping with heat emergencies (such as a heatsink falling off or a fan stopping) versus Intel's? AMD has recently been comparing the thermal protection abilities of the Athlon XP to those of the Pentium 4, especially to their OEM customers but do you feel this is a valid comparison? We know that AMD has the performance superiority but what about when it comes to thermal protection? What about the C3? How would it react in a currently shipping motherboard to a heatsink falling off?
As processor clock speeds continue to increase, so too will thermal issues. And the industry as a whole is facing huge challenges in resolving them. That's why it's a pretty good time to be in the heatsink and cooler business! We have created our own video to show what happens when the heatsink is removed from the Ezra VIA C3 800MHz processor: it just keeps on running!
12) Shuttle's KT266A based AK31 Revision 3.1 was the first VIA based board we had seen in a long time to feature four DIMM slots. With memory as cheap as it is today, and with an increase in demand for cost effective 1P Athlon XP based servers is there any push from VIA for more workstation/server class KT266A based motherboards? It's not typically a focus of VIA but it's unfortunately a market that has been ignored since the introduction of the Athlon.
We're very pleased too see products like the one you mention come out onto the market. We are encouraging our customers to move in this direction, and I'm sure you'll see more designs coming out in the near future.
What many people don't realize is that VIA is already a leading provider of workstation and server class chipsets. We offer the first dual Tualatin platform in the Pro266T, which supports up to 4GB of ECC DDR for the server environment. Very soon, we are also introducing the VPX-64 modular companion chip, which enables all VIA V-MAP compatible chipsets to take advantage of the increased performance of 64bit PCI for high bandwidth SCSI, Gigabit Ethernet, and other devices. We're very excited about our potential in the server and workstation markets.
As usual, we'd like to thank Richard for his time and wish him the best of luck in the future. If you'd like to contact Richard directly you may do so via email at RichardBrown@via.com.tw.